Sunday, November 05, 2000

Sweet 72 and never missed voting

        Forget about close presidential races. The real nail-biters are those contests for soil and water conservation boards. Gosh. Which candidate would best speak for our dirt?

        Then there are the constitutional issues we occasionally face. Should Kentucky have a railroad commission? What about home rule for cities?

        Decisions, decisions. Martha Daugherty figures she has made hundreds of them: She has never missed voting in an election, she says.

        She admits to playing a few rounds of “eeny meeny miney mo” in her lifetime. But she wouldn't dream of missing out. In the 1950s, she even mailed an absentee ballot from Puerto Rico, where her husband was stationed.

        “I voted enough years that I figure, "Oh well, if nobody else shows up, I will. Then I will have had a big, loud voice in the government!'”

Raised with politics
               At 72, Ms. Daugherty is a tiny, spritely woman with a fondness for Shih Tzus, women's clubs and politics.

        This Tuesday, she'll be volunteering as usual at the Boone County polls. For 10 years, she also has been president of the county's League of Women Voters, currently five women strong.

        Her involvement is genetic, she says.

        Her father was a state representative with influential friends, and the family had lively discussions about issues. Dad was a Democrat who thought Franklin Roosevelt would create jobs for starving people and end the Depression.

        “And my grandparents said, "If they're starving, they're not willing to work,'” Ms. Daugherty recalls.

        They were Republicans, of course.

        Ms. Daugherty also is registered with the GOP, but her mind is distinctly her own. This year, she easily made her selections for Florence City Council based on which candidates would be most likely to take her calls.

        One of her choices is her optometrist. Another is the daughter of a friend from church. A third was one of her students at Boone County High School, where she taught music for many years.

        “I know if I don't think they're doing right by the city, I can go talk to them and they'll say, "Hello, Mrs. Daugherty, what's on your mind?'”

No contest too small
               For big races, she prepares by reading the paper and watching debates. Her pet issue nationally is reduction of the federal debt; last week she voted for president based on that concern. (Poll workers cast their ballots before the rest of us.)

        Over the years, Ms. Daugherty also has helped choose state Court of Appeals judges and county surveyors, railroad commissioners and jailers.

        She has dissected confusing Constitutional amendments. She has wondered whether to vote for the lone constable candidate. Does he deserve a mandate? What does the constable do, anyway?

        There's always something worth knowing, she says.

        “If I can find out they're in favor of trash collection, I'll inquire if that's something they have power over.”

        On Tuesday, Ms. Daugherty will be in her usual spot at the polls, helping voters sign in.

        Some may look at her and think: Nice, grandmotherly volunteer.

        What they should be thinking: Role model.



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